LDWF Secretary Barham Asks U.S. Commerce Secretary to Declare a Commercial Fisheries Failure in Louisiana and SBA Administrator Mills to Activate Federal Disaster Declaration in Anticipation of Opening Bonnet Carré Spillway

Release Date: 05/09/2011



May 9, 2011 – On Friday, Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries Secretary Robert Barham sent a letter to the U.S. Department of Commerce Secretary Gary Locke asking for swift application of a commercial fisheries failure declaration in anticipation of the opening of the Bonnet Carré Spillway in response to rising waters in the Mississippi River. The letter, sent May 6, 2011, also requested support from the Department of Commerce's Economic Development Administration (EDA) for commercial and recreational fishing, and associated businesses. The proactive declaration and support would provide financial assistance to individual business owners in areas that may be impacted, and assistance for the restoration of recreational and commercial fisheries.

Secretary Barham also sent a letter Friday to U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) Administrator Karen Mills requesting the activation of all appropriate federal disaster declaration clauses that would enable the SBA to assist the small businesses in the state that may be impacted by the scheduled opening of the Bonnet Carré Spillway and the possible opening of the Morganza Spillway. In particular, Secretary Barham also asked that Administrator Mills consider temporarily suspending loan repayments for coastal businesses that may be impacted by flood waters that currently have SBA disaster and economic injury loans as a result of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill, and hurricanes Katrina, Rita, Ike and Gustav.

The full texts of the letters are below:

The Honorable Gary Locke
Secretary of Commerce
U.S. Department of Commerce
14th and Constitution Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20230

Dear Mr. Secretary:

As rising waters in the Mississippi River approach communities along the river’s banks, our state prepares for flood conditions in the lower Mississippi River that will accompany a scheduled opening of the Bonnet Carré Spillway. I am writing to you now to request that you activate the necessary federal disaster declaration clauses in the Magnunson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act, as well as the applicable clauses that shall prompt support from the Economic Development Administration (EDA). These actions would result in the declaration of a commercial fisheries failure for Louisiana and make available the crucial support our communities and our fisheries industry will need to recover.

The last six years have presented immense challenges to Louisiana’s coastal fisheries and the communities that are supported by them. From 2005 through 2010, we experienced hurricanes Katrina, Rita, Gustav and Ike, and, in 2010, the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill. Last year’s oil spill not only negated so much of the progress our fisheries were able to make in recovery from the previous four major hurricanes, but it decimated much of the market for our seafood around the globe. With fisheries like Louisiana oysters seeing a 55.9 percent reduction in production from 2009 to 2010, it is evident that the commercial fisheries industries and the residents in Louisiana who depend upon them have major challenges to overcome. These same communities will now face flood waters of record proportions; it is crucial that we proactively make assistance programs available.

In addition to the commercial and recreational fisheries industries, which are responsible for generating approximately $3 billion in Louisiana annually, our maritime and energy industries are also major economic drivers in Louisiana. Each of these industries plays a vital role not only in the Gulf Coast economy, but in the nation’s economic picture.

The application of a federal fisheries disaster, fisheries disaster assistance and the financial support of the EDA will help to get our small businesses, families and their communities back on their feet as quickly as possible. EDA assistance means that associated business like the bait and tackle shops, restaurants, fisheries processors and marinas along the coast will have access to assistance that can get them back to contributing to the overall economic success of the Gulf Coast.

We look forward to a swift response from your office and the rapid application of appropriate federal disaster declarations so that we may assure residents throughout Louisiana and along our coast that as the flood waters recede, we may begin work to restore our fisheries, our coastal businesses and the communities dependent upon their success.


Robert Barham
Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries


The Honorable Karen G. Mills
Administrator Small Business Administration
US Small Business Administration
409 3rd Street, SW
Washington, DC 20416

Dear Administrator Mills:

As rising waters move down the Mississippi River towards our communities and business, I am writing to ask that you begin the necessary step of activating all relevant federal disaster declaration clauses that would allow the Small Business Administration (SBA) to assist our residents, our businesses and our coastal communities. In particular, we would like to request that the SBA suspend temporarily any loan repayments for coastal businesses that are impacted by the impending flood waters and those who have disaster and economic injury loans related to hurricanes Katrina, Rita, Gustav and Ike, and the 2010 Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill.

By proactively addressing these concerns and committing the SBA’s assistance, you will not only allow small businesses in the maritime and fisheries industries some assurances of options for recovery after the flood waters recede, but you will allow them access to economic recovery options in the days that will follow the openings of the Bonnet Carré and Morganza spillways.

Along Louisiana’s coast, the two primary industries that not only allow our communities to thrive, but allow the Gulf Coast to maintain relevance in the national economy, are the fisheries industry, both recreational and commercial, and oil and gas. Thousands of workers are employed across these two primary industries, not only directly through fishermen, processors and on the Gulf’s oil rigs, but indirectly through the coastal businesses that support them.  

There will be both immediate and long-term impacts associated with flood waters throughout coastal Louisiana and the state respectfully requests that the SBA step forward now to support these small businesses.


Robert Barham
Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries


The Department of Wildlife and Fisheries is charged with managing and protecting Louisiana's abundant natural resources. For more information, visit us at www.wlf.louisiana.gov, on Facebook at www.facebook.com/ldwffb, or follow us on Twitter @LDWF.
For more information contact Olivia Watkins at owatkins@wlf.la.gov or at (225) 610-8660.